With the holidays and winter hitting hard, I wanted to share a rich meal that will have your guests feeling happy and satisfied.
It’s a terrific dish both for first-time game eaters as well as those who’ve been eating wild meats all their lives. The sweet and tangy sauce is countered by the creamy goat cheese. Altogether, it’s a gourmet taste that is simple to make.
This recipe was inspired by a dish my pal Liz Lynch and I made for the cooking competition at the Back Country Hunters & Anglers Rendezvous last spring. She made a wonderful huckleberry reduction and homemade goat cheese that we served with a marvelous bit of pronghorn roast. We won second place in the competition.
When you serve wild meat, there’s usually anxiety about “gaminess” and a weird flavor. That hasn’t been my experience, though. I’m a new hunter with just four seasons under my belt (and in my freezer) and I butcher all the meat myself. If you’re having trouble with gaminess in your meat, try removing a little more of the outer membranes before you cook it.
I modified the recipe Liz and I used by adding a special seasoning to the meat. I used Aggie Cacao Meat, a seasoning made from cocoa nibs roasted by the Aggie Chocolate Factory Learning and Research Center.
- 1 to 5 pounds meat such as elk, deer, antelope, or beef. (Choose a single muscle so there’s no gristle in the middle. Backstraps are good, but so are large pieces from the rump.)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup blueberries. (Frozen will work, extra points for huckleberries. I was thinking of trying it with pomegranate.)
- 1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons marsala cooking wine
- 1 Lemon juice and zest, or 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Grape juice, about 1 1/2 cups
- Goat cheese. (You can get it crumbled or in a small brick. I usually find it with the deli cheeses at the supermarket.)
I used a sous vide machine (Anova Precision Cooker) to prepare my roast. I used a small muscle roast from an elk’s rump. The meat is not a great cut and not particularly tender. But after sitting in the sous vide bath for seven hours, it’s much more tender. Keep the au jus for the sauce.
You can use a sous vide machine, or just prepare your roast the way you feel most comfortable. You could season it with salt and pepper, then brown it with oil in a hot pan on all sides. Finish it in a 300-degree oven until the interior temperature reached about 120 degrees F; baste it frequently with a little oil.
However, you choose to get the roast ready, tent it loosely in foil to keep it warm while it rests. It’ll reabsorb much of its juices while it rests, and it gives you time to make the sauce.
Preparing the Sauce
In the same pan you browned the roast (so you can claim the scrapings from the pan), and over medium heat, add the garlic and butter and sauté for a minute or two. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan and keep the scrapings from burning.
Combine the vinegar, cooking wine, brown sugar, honey, lemon juice, and cloves. Add grape juice so you’ve got about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Pour mixture slowly into the pan, stirring and scraping as you do. If you used a lemon, grate the zest off the peel into the sauce.
Add the blueberries. After a few minutes, they’ll be soft and you can smash them against the bottom of the pan.
Let the sauce simmer for some time to thicken. It could take 15-30 minutes. Stir frequently and don’t let it burn. If it starts to burn to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat, but don’t scrape the bottom. If you scrape it you’ll stir the burnt flavor in.
You’ll know the sauce is ready when it starts to stick to a spoon. Add more honey to thicken as needed.
Prepare plates with a small pile of goat cheese. Slice the roast about 1/4″ thick and lay out on a plate. Drizzle the meat with the sauce. The hot sauce will help re-heat the meat, but it is extremely hot, so be careful.
The key to eating this is to get meat, sauce, and goat cheese all in the same bite. The meat is rich, the sauce is sweet and hot, and the cheese is dry and cool. It’s a delicious medley, and the cloves add a seasonal flavor that is terrific for the holidays. Even folks who’ve never had game meat will love this dish. Serve it hot.
It’d be delicious with creamy garlic mashed potatoes or rice pilaf. Sliced mushrooms and onions sautéed in butter are also a great option. Choose a side that is not sweet to balance the sauce.
Words by Levi Sim, Utah State University photographer
Photos by Edward Harimoto.